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Criminal Justice Training Center Formed Through Multiple Partnerships

Posted August 7, 2023 at 11:48 am

Pennsylvania Highlands officials, along with representatives from the Cambria County Prison, Laurel Highlands Region Police Crisis Intervention Team, and Cambria County Coroner’s Office, signed multiple local partnerships this morning, officially establishing the formation of the Criminal Justice Training Center.

The Criminal Justice Training Center serves as a hub for five different areas of the criminal justice field, including two stemming from Penn Highlands with the Police Academy and Use of Force Simulator, as well as classes and seminars for the three other groups: Cambria County Prison, Laurel Highlands Region Police Crisis Intervention Team, and Cambria County Coroner’s Office.

“Penn Highlands has embraced an opportunity to provide quality, well-rounded training for criminal justice professionals in law enforcement, corrections, and first responders,” stated Dennis Miller, Pennsylvania Highlands Police Academy Director. “We’re excited to expand opportunities for all of our first responders to prepare and equip practitioners to better serve our communities.”

The Police Academy will serve as the flagship component of the Training Center after being transferred to the College in late 2021. The Academy’s inaugural class, consisting of 11 cadets, will graduate during a ceremony this September after completing 919 total hours of training spanning over the last 11 months.

The Use of Force Simulator, which will be utilized by multiple groups, consists of approximately 800 real-life scenarios where officers are tested on their responses to given situations. The Cambria County Prison Basic Correctional Officers Certification will bring in recruits to attend sessions at Penn Highlands.

Both training aspects were also added within the last two years.

“At the prison, we’ve had a longstanding internship partnership with Penn Highlands that has been successful for many years,” stated Craig Descavish, Cambria County Prison Deputy Warden. “We’re excited about enhancing that partnership, as well as enhancing the training opportunities for our officers and cadets both at the prison and at the Penn Highlands facility.”

The Laurel Highlands Region Police Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) is an innovative program of police-based crisis intervention involving community health care and advocacy partnerships based on a nationally recognized model developed by the Memphis (Tenn.) Police Department.

Under this model, police officers, first responders, probation/parole officers, and correctional officers receive extensive training provided by community mental health professionals, family and consumer advocates, and experts in related fields in responding to citizens experiencing a behavioral crisis. The emphasis is on mental health knowledge, crisis resolution skills, and access to community services.

“The Laurel Highlands Region Police Crisis Intervention Team is honored to be a part of Penn Highlands Community College and the Criminal Justice Training Center,” stated Daniel Marguccio, CIT Program Coordinator. “We’ve been using the college for the past 12 years to train law enforcement, mental health professionals, and first responders in de-escalation skills, which will assist the community. We hope to continue this partnership.”

Penn Highlands has been housing the County Coroners Training Symposium for the previous 10 years. Each May, Coroners from across Pennsylvania are trained and educated on current events and emerging trends, as they relate to situations such as the handling of subpoenas, death certificates, criminal investigations, mass fatalities, coroner inquests, partnerships with law enforcement agencies, and positive relationships with the media.

“We are proud to enter the partnership with the Criminal Justice Training Center here at Penn Highlands,” stated Joseph Hribar, Cambria County Deputy Coroner. “We’ve been working with the college for several years when hosting our annual coroner and law enforcement seminar. This gives us the extended opportunity to bring talented and informed speakers to Cambria County.”

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